The Fattening of America


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Negative criticism gets you nowhere...

Started listening to Dale Carnegie's "How To Win Friends & Influence People" in a bid to jumpstart my goals for next year by finishing 2 non-fiction books a month. In the first chapter, Dale shared this letter written by Abraham Lincoln to Major General Meade after Meade disobeyed a direct order to attack General Lee (who was trapped by the overflowing Potomac River) and instead held a Council of War, allowing time for the river to recede and facilitate Lee's escape. By attacking/capturing Lee at this juncture in the war would have ended it 2 years early and possibly saved thousands of lives:

Executive Mansion,

Washington, July 14, 1863.

Major General Meade

I have just seen your despatch to Gen. Halleck, asking to be relieved of your command, because of a supposed censure of mine. I am very--very--grateful to you for the magnificent success you gave the cause of the country at Gettysburg; and I am sorry now to be the author of the slightest pain to you. But I was in such deep distress myself that I could not restrain some expression of it. I had been oppressed nearly ever since the battles at Gettysburg, by what appeared to be evidences that yourself, and Gen. Couch, and Gen. Smith, were not seeking a collision with the enemy, but were trying to get him across the river without another battle. What these evidences were, if you please, I hope to tell you at some time, when we shall both feel better. The case, summarily stated is this. You fought and beat the enemy at Gettysburg; and, of course, to say the least, his loss was as great as yours. He retreated; and you did not, as it seemed to me, pressingly pursue him; but a flood in the river detained him, till, by slow degrees, you were again upon him. You had at least twenty thousand veteran troops directly with you, and as many more raw ones within supporting distance, all in addition to those who fought with you at Gettysburg; while it was not possible that he had received a single recruit; and yet you stood and let the flood run down, bridges be built, and the enemy move away at his leisure, without attacking him. And Couch and Smith! The latter left Carlisle in time, upon all ordinary calculation, to have aided you in the last battle at Gettysburg; but he did not arrive. At the end of more than ten days, I believe twelve, under constant urging, he reached Hagerstown from Carlisle, which is not an inch over fifty-five miles, if so much. And Couch's movement was very little different.

Again, my dear general, I do not believe you appreciate the magnitude of the misfortune involved in Lee's escape. He was within your easy grasp, and to have closed upon him would, in connection with our other late successes, have ended the war. As it is, the war will be prolonged indefinitely. If you could not safely attack Lee last Monday, how can you possibly do so South of the river, when you can take with you very few more than two thirds of the force you then had in hand? It would be unreasonable to expect, and I do not expect you can now effect much. Your golden opportunity is gone, and I am distressed immeasurably because of it.

I beg you will not consider this a prosecution, or persecution of yourself As you had learned that I was dissatisfied, I have thought it best to kindly tell you why.

Abraham Lincoln

What was Meade's response? There was none. Lincoln never sent the letter, it was found among his personal papers after his death. Lincoln learned earlier in his life that negative criticism only leads to negative consequences, going so far as in one instance he was challenged to a duel for a particular scathing piece he wrote about a fellow which was printed in the local paper. He knew that by sending this letter he would only cause Meade to defend his actions, as well as cause disharmony among the troops, possibly even cause others to undermine his own leadership of the country.

Before we criticize others, we need to ask ourselves this question - "Will this comment build up or tear down?" and go from there...


Friday, July 23, 2010

The Cycling Tour Aftermath...

Well, I am finally recovering from the cycling tour last Saturday. I am pleased to report that I was able to achieve my goals of both finishing the tour & completing it in under 2 hours. With the challenges that awaited me, those goals tasted much sweeter.

From the 9 miles uphill & into the wind (well not all of it was uphill) to the 3 miles of oiled gravel, it was a trek of endurance & tenacity. Not discouraged by comments made at the very beginning of the ride, I kept with it. The first obstacle I encountered was an almost vertical hill of which I had to get off the bike & walk up. A fellow cyclist happened to comment as he passed me, "Boy, that's not a good sign..."

Comments from other riders as I continued on the ride were more positive & encouraging which was a nice surprise. The second half of the ride I was met by a friend that supported me along the way & actually taught me a few things about my bike. I now know how & when to shift gears either up or down depending on the terrain. He was great and helped me to keep pace.

The aftermath was another story altogether. I ended up with two knees of jello, constant charlie-horses throughout the evening in both calves, & a massive pain in my lower back that put me out of commission for a while. I have since recovered and look forward to hopping back into the saddle on another tour soon.

I stretched myself, proved that I was capable, & had a good time doing it.

I highly suggest stretching yourself, you may not know how strong you really are!


Thursday, July 15, 2010

"Why me??" Moments

Earlier this week I had a "why me" moment worthy of a Charlie Brown cartoon. I went out riding my bike Monday morning, enjoying the ride until I hit some rough pavement. A little further down the road I noticed that I was feeling a little bit more of the road under my rear tire. Hopping off my bike I found that the tire was beginning to go flat. I was about 3 miles from home and only a couple of blocks from a gas station that thankfully had a free air hose. I thought I would try to hoof it to the gas station in the off-chance that the tire just needed air and that it wasn't popped.

I felt awkward as I walked my bike to the station, I had worn my usual riding gear sans sensible shoes. I figured I was going to take a quick spin and left the house in my crocs. It had rained the night before and of course several sections of sidewalk were missing due to construction. I almost fell a few times while traversing the muddy sections, I'm sure giving a good laugh to motorists passing by. Making it to the station & using the hose, the tire plumped up rather quickly but as I released it I noticed little air bubbles popping up from where the spokes meet the tire rim. Yep, it was popped.

Thanks to modern technology, most businesses no longer see the need or expense to maintain a public phone. The gas station didn't have one and neither did the grocery store across the parking lot. Not feeling I needed it, I neglected to bring our cellphone on my journey. What did I tell you? 3 miles from home with a flat tire & no means to call my wife to pick me up.

My mother-in-law works nearby and I thought she would have been to work by that time so I trudged to her office. Guess what? No such luck. Needless to say, I did walk my bike all the way home despite thoughts of stashing it in some woods & coming back for it with my car. I loaded up the bike, made it to work on-time(luckily) and later took it to the bike shop for repairs. While I was there, it was pointed out to me that the rear wheel was loose as well. Within 10 minutes I was up and running again with assurances that the rear wheel was tightened well and the offer to bring it back on Friday to double-check it.

What does this matter? You see on Saturday I am going on my first cycling tour, looping a total of 18 miles. If I didn't get that flat on Monday, I wouldn't have known about the loose rear wheel which could have spelled disaster on the tour.

In reality, this "why me" moment turned into a blessing. Looking through the bible there are tons of "why me" moments, the one person that really stands out is the story of Joseph. It seemed that he constantly fell into "why me" moments, but through all of those "why me" moments God used them to protect him & eventually saved him and the entire tribe of Israel.

Trust today that any "why me" moments you may be facing will eventually turn out for your good. You may not see it today or tomorrow, but trust me - you will receive the answer to your question "why me?"...


Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Over-Doing Things...

This morning as I was getting ready for work I happened to be watching GMA and there was a news piece on heat stroke & keeping hydrated during the heat of summer. The big news stories revolved around the eastern states getting hit with a huge heat wave, NYC clocking in at 102 degrees on average & Newark, NJ breaking a record at 104 degrees. There was a doctor on the program talking about the importance of staying hydrated and went so far as to tell people to look at their urine when using the restroom as a tell-tale sign of being dehydrated. She mentioned that a dark-colored urine indicates dehydration and that people want to see a pale yellow color. She also stated that a light yellow or clear urine is symptomatic of over-hydration.

That piqued my interest. Over-hydration. Who knew that you can drink too much water for your body not to function properly. Now I have heard & read about water intoxication where people have imbibed so much water as to cause a "drunkeness-like" state, but never have I heard of over-hydration before. I guess it makes sense, taking or doing too much of anything can become a bad thing despite old wives tales & grandmotherly-type advice.

Reminds me of a story a friend of mine told me about some cyclist he knew. The guy was an avid cyclist, I mean he had the special shoes, the lycra outfits, the expensive bike, he might have been a big racer. My friend told me that he had been hanging out with they guy at the local cycle shop when he pulled a huge plastic bag of pills from his pack. The friend told me it had to have weighed at least a pound by the look of it. Vitamins, extracts, supplements of all sorts - the guy told my friend as he proceeded to down each and every pill in the bag.My friend was dumbfounded. The guy sat there and swallowed a pound of pills one after another. Over-doing it? I would have to point to 'yes' on that one.

I've heard and read articles on over-doing it with had sanitizer and how it's unhealthy to constantly use it because it doesn't allow our immune systems to battle smaller germs and become more developed. I think of the story of Howie Mandel and how his mother & grandmother had a hand in his OCD/germaphobia by being super-neat & clean all the time. He said that his grandmother used to wax & polish her front steps, CONCRETE front steps! Over-doing it? quite possibly.

I've been the "victim" of over-eating, although I really can't say victim since I personally made the choice to eat more than I needed. In talking with a client of mine that is an avid runner & cyclist, we had a conversation about how much has changed as far as portion sizes from the 1950's to today. Our dinner plate diameters have gone from 9 inches to 12 inches, she mentioned a friend had moved into a home from the 1950's and couldn't understand at first why her dishes & cups would not fit in the cabinets. She realized that the cabinets were built for smaller plates & cups. "Super-Size It" has become the norm.

It's hard sometimes to find a happy medium. We are often swinging from one extreme to the other by being stingy with our time or finances to giving it all away. I realize I need to find a balance in all areas of my life if I want to grow & mature. One of those things is definitely hydration, finding a balance in my fluid intake. That may be the cause of some issues in my weight loss journey. The symptoms are there, time to scale back a bit and see what happens...

Yes, Virginia, you can have too much of a good thing...


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"I'm looking through you..."

"And you're nowhere..." - The Beatles, "I'm Looking Through You"

I was told a story yesterday that seemed a lot like a Twilight Zone episode from the 1980's that I had seen. Someone I know had been at the library and saw someone they knew. But instead of saying "hi" or acknowledging their presence, the person walked right by as if they didn't recognize them. I asked if they had seen eachother, sometimes I can be oblivious to those around me if I am engrossed in a thought or determined to get somewhere. Nope, apparently they had even locked eyes at one point. No mistake, the "cold shoulder" was deliberate. Funny thing is, these two had been close for a time until this person became distant & stand-offish all of a sudden.

The episode was entitled, "To See The Invisible Man", all about a man accused of being cold to his fellow man & sentenced to a year of "invisibility". He was marked and all citizens were to avoid contact with the marked, pretending they were invisible. The man made it the year and realized how cold & heartless the punishment was, the episode ended with the man comforting a "marked" woman as robot police drones surrounded them.

My devotion today also had something to do with ignoring people. A homeless man was found outside a church on a Sunday, all the parishoners went into the church without talking to the man or inviting him inside. A short time later, the homeless man took the pulpit & revealed himself to be the pastor of the church. He went on to preach a sermon on loving & reaching out to others.

I've been snubbed before. I've called people on it. I tell you nothing makes you feel more worthless than to be ignored or snubbed. It's as if you are not important enough for others to acknowledge your presence or worth their time to say a simple hello or nod or wave. Most of those that I had called on the snubbing back-pedaled quickly and felt really awkward about it. Hmmm, why would that be?

We are called to love each other, help each other, raise each other up. You may be mad at me, that's fine. You may not like me, that's fine too. But for goodness sake, give a little respect to others if you see them. A two second hello, however trite, is better than totally ignoring them. Are we in grade school? Really? Seriously?

I found this passage:

"If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see?" - 1 John 4:20, NLT

Hate is a strong word but I count deliberately ignoring someone as a form of hate, I don't know about you...


PS - sorry for the silence in posts, had been getting ready for vacation & other life events...

Friday, May 28, 2010

Running right to the negative...

I have faith and I share that faith from time to time. If you're not into it, that's fine - I respect that. Faith has gotten me through some pretty rough patches in my life. Faith has grown me as I continue to realize that I cannot do it all myself. And yet after seeing what faith can do time & time again I find myself oftentimes running right to the negative when problems arise. Last night was not exception except that I changed my attitude when I realized what I was doing.

Yesterday was a scorcher (well a scorcher in this neck of the woods) for May. We topped out at 91 degrees with I thought 60% humidity, which makes the hot temperatures feel even hotter. Taking a walk for over an hour at lunch, I came back to the office with a completely soaked shirt & a bad case of "indian underwear". I had planned on getting some yardwork done since I couldn't let the lawn get any longer. Playing hooky from my home responsibilities this weekend caught up with me. Getting home, I changed the furnace filter & closed up the house (which by this time had climbed to 84 degrees indoors). Flipping on the central air unit, I felt the flood of cold air begin to flow out of the kitchen vent. Changing my clothes & grabbing my iPod, I prepared to tackle the lawn when all of a sudden 'snap!' the power went out.

Having been through this a couple of times (living in an older home it happens), I checked the breakers. Nothing. I flipped each individual breaker off and back on. Nothing. I flipped all the breakers off, including the main, and systematically flipped each breaker trying to pinpoint the problem. Nothing. By this time I was hot, tired, & frustrated. I told Bren to pack a bag for all of us and call the electrician and make an appointment for the next day (I wasn't about to pay a $150 emergency service call fee). I also told her to pack whatever frozen items we could to salvage because there was no guarantee that they would stay frozen overnight.

I headed out to do the lawn, defeat began to run through my mind as I thought of using up our vacation funds to pay for repairs. After the second mower bag was dumped, I had realized what I was doing. I was running to the negative in this situation, not even sure of the actual cause or cost to repair the problem. Once I realized that, I changed my attitude. I began to pray & give thanks for the vacation money to fix the electrical problem. I gave thanks for having in-laws that live in the next town who have room for us, central air, & a deep freezer for the meat & other items we needed to save from the freezer. I put my faith & trust into this situation working out to my good. I turned from the negative & walked into faith.

Just a moment I had finished praying, I looked over and saw a public works bucket truck turn the corner near my house. That sparked a thought, so I had Bren call the power plant in the off-chance that the entire block was experiencing an outtage. Bren stopped me while I continued to mow and said that there was an outtage in the area and a crew was out to rectify the problem. I recalled a similar incident last year during a thunderstorm, our block's power had gone out because of a faulty transformer. I guess in the situation last night we found out what happens when everyone on the block turns on their central air at the same time.

I told Bren to cancel the electrician appointment & I finished the lawn while continuing to give thanks for the result of the situation. When things in life happen, we can make a choice even when we think there is no choice. We can choose to run right to the negative, or we can choose to change our attitude & have faith.

How do you start the day? Do you look at the 'gloom & doom' on the news or do you begin your day with thanks & faith?


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Lost shoes & road pennies

One thing that I find more often on my walks than anything else are shoes. One lone shoe lying on the side of the road or off to one side of a sidewalk. Some are name brand (Nike, Reebok, etc.) & some are generic/non-descript. I have seen some in excellent condition & yet have seen some that were nearing their expiration. And I wonder about those lost shoes. Where did they come from? What was the owner like? Does the owner realize their shoe is missing?

Sometimes we may feel like those lost shoes, discarded, uncared-for, forgotten. Situations in life can bring us down, thoughts of failure & disappointment cloud our minds.

Another thing I find often on my walks are "road pennies", so-named because they are found on the road! I get a little giddy when I find them, not for their monetary value but rather for their characteristics. These coins are abused, scratched, barely worth redemption for their value. The one I found today takes the cake, it was so scratched that the zinc core has been exposed along the edges of the coin. Looking over the small collection at my desk, the only one in worse shape looks as though something took bites out of the coin.

I cherish each and every one of them. Some may say "why bother?" and see them as ugly & worthless. I see them as unique & in a way beautiful because of their scars & defects.

I should carry one of them on a chain as a reminder when I'm feeling down or a little depressed. A reminder of Someone who accepts, loves, & cherishes us despite our defects. I think you have an idea of who that might be...

"But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners." - Ro 5:8, NLT